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Mental Illness

Mental Illness is not an easy subject for everyone to understand, nonetheless, it is real and tough to live with. Regardless, you can learn.

Mental Illness is not an easy subject for everyone to understand, nonetheless, it is real, and it’s tough to live with. Here are some ways you can help.

We all know that there are many factors that prevent people with mental illness from getting help. Chief among them is the pervasive stigma that’s around Mental Health – a stigma that, thankfully, many are working hard to eliminate.

But is this the only reason why people are reluctant to seek out the help of a mental-health professional? From my view, there are a whole host of reasons why people don’t get help. Below are some reasons I feel are some of the biggest:

  • Stigma
  • Cultural differences
  • Gender identity
  • Lack of resources
  • Societal pressures to “walk it off”
  • Helpers don’t help themselves.

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Stigma

While Mental Health has increasingly been brought to the fore, it is far from stigma-free. Those who are well often have a difficult time understanding the plight of the ill. Saying things like “I’ve been sad before; if I can get over it, so can you.” Or ” You just have to” (insert solution). My personal favorite, “Someone’s always got it worse.”

While it’s certainly true that there are many well-meaning people out there, these kinds of phrases just aren’t helpful. In fact, they may make someone feel worse, thus making people with mental illness shrink even further into the background. When this happens, people are way less likely to get help.

What to do when someone talks to you about their Mental Health.

Listen.

Regardless of how you feel about mental illness, it can be more helpful to simply listen. Don’t talk, and don’t try to “fix their problem” – hear them out.

Acknowledge.

Again, it doesn’t matter how you personally feel – just do your best to acknowledge their challenges. This can be done by responding with “Your depression must be difficult for you. Is there anything I can do to help?” Then, focus on them, and go back to listening.

Take a supportive role.

Remember, when someone is reaching out to you, it is taking a lot of mental courage to do so. Therefore, the best thing you can do is be their backbone. If they need help seeking out mental-health care, offer to make the phone call; tell them you have no problem with driving them to an appointment, etc. Often, the turmoil inside is so overwhelming that these seemingly simple things are literally too huge.

Mental Illness

Note: you will not cause more damage and drive one to suicide by lending support.

Cultural differences.

Some cultures even within your own geographic location have different values around Mental Health. Cultural differences and mental health. The best approach when dealing with a different culture is to ask “What’s the best way I can help you?” Some places in the world may have a “We don’t talk about that” policy. If this is the case, observe from afar. Many times, if one hangs in there long enough, the person with the illness will reach out. Perhaps for only moments at a time, but that’s okay because you are there to acknowledge, listen and lend support. It can be helpful to slide in that you are there for them. Moreover, if the conversation abruptly ends, let it.

Many people will say “I’m fine.” If this is the case, let them know that you are genuinely here for them when they need you; no matter what they may need. Your “I don’t feel like I’m helping” feeling is natural but remember, this may be all the help those with mental illness need to keep going. Who knows, this may just end up saving a life.

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Gender identity.

Gender identity is a very important consideration when dealing with mental health. For example, transgendered yout, are specially vulnerable when it comes to mental health, while men have been conditioned not to talk about their feelings. It’s important to recognize that everyone, regardless of who they are, has their own story and every human story has an element of pain… It’s not up to us to make judgments or minimze their said experience. These reactions/responses are one of the main reasons so many wonderful people suffer in silence.

Regardless of how you identify, the same compassionate and empathetic principles apply. Acknowledge, listen and offer support.

Lack of resources

In my opinion, this is the biggest obstacle that we face as a society, not just in North America, but all over the world. For example, in Canada we have a Two-tiered mental health care system. One element of it is private, while the other is public. This has created division because good care comes down to the haves versus the have-nots. $190 an hour is way too much for many. This system has put the public system in a state of emergency. Not only is there a lack of funding, but also a lack of resources. And again it leaves the most vulnerable in society without care.

Similarly, many go without because the public system is too short on resources. A solution to this problem would be to amalgamate both the private and public sector.

Social pressure to just “walk it off”

Modern society puts a high value on work, money and materialistic goods. With a priority on money for example, many with mental illness find themselves struggling, as they are at the mercy of their employment. Managers aren’t likely to tolerate an employee missing three days a week because of the depression – especially if it happens on a consistent basis. Therefore, one is left to push through and keep going regardless of how sick they are. Our societal pressure to constantly perform and be quiet about how we feel needs to change. No one should fear losing their job because they are sick, period. People with a mental health conditions can’t simple “walk it off” because there is work to be done, parties to attend and beautiful places to visit. Please, try and understand this.


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Helpers don’t help themselves.

If you are a helper, you know what I’m talking about. Everyone else’s needs come before your own. Shoving it all down, picking up your shoulders and getting ready to take on yet another person in distress, is a good way for you to end up in big trouble yourself. Self-care is important, and you must give your mind and body a break from other people’s chaos. You will find in the long run, you were able to be more of help. When you are well you can give your best.

So remember, as people we all deserve to be listened to and supported by our families, our friends and our workplaces. We need the compassion to help people get through their mental pain.

Lastly, we all need to band together to ensure that our loved ones have the best possible care and equal access to said mental care. Together we can do this.

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Jonathan Arenburg.
Jonathan Arenburg.

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental-health blogger, writer, and published author, appearing in the i’Mpossible’s Projects Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental Health Talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has written for the mental-health advocacy organization Sick Not Weak.

Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files, Books and Authors, and Men Are Nuts. Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental-wellness journey while helping others along the way.

Educated as an addiction’s counsellor, he has dedicated most of his professional life of eighteen years to working with those who have intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges, and mental illness.

He has also spent fifteen years in the volunteer fire service helping his community.

His book “The Road To Mental Wellness” goes into detail about his life-long battle with depression, anxiety and more recently, PTSD. In it, he hopes to provide insight on how mental illness cultivates over a lifetime and, if not recognized and treated, how it impacts the entirety of one’s life, right from childhood into the adult years. Jonathan lives with his two children in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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